Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Inception of a Cycle, Part II, A conversation with Patricia Preciado Martin, author of Images and Conversations with photographs by Luis Carlos Bernal

Conversing with Patricia has always been enjoyable, getting her to slow down so I can gather facts for an article is not so easy for she is still a  passionate talker especially when it’s about the subject of Mejicanos and their place in the history of Tucson. I first met Patricia in the early 1980’s when the Latino librarians at the Tucson Public Library took note of the fact the Arizona Historical Society, which had local history displays in their museum, had very little information or artifacts about the presence and influence of the Mexican population. As a consequence these librarians decided to address this blatant neglect and hold a Museo de la Gente at a barrio library branch where they would have displays of photographs, memorabilia, artifacts, and a video interview with a family that had been in Tucson for several generations. People from the barrio came in droves to see the Museo, where Raza was finally being acknowledged.      

As a consequence, the Arizona Historical Society decided that they also needed to correct their oversight and they asked Patricia Martin and me to write a grant proposal to obtain funding to build a similar but larger collection of Raza history. Patricia, who was not a librarian, was asked because she was already starting to explore her first book, Images and Conversations that covers the first phase of the cycle of conquest that transferred land holdings from Mexican families to Anglos.  In her book, Patricia provides the reader interviews with individuals whose family farmed and ranched for several generations and they explain how their original land was either lost or diminished in size.

Antonio- How did the idea for your book originate?

Patricia- I was always making up stories to tell my two small children when we’d go camping and that led me to consider the barrio leyendas like La Llorona, or the devil with chicken feet at the dance. I wanted to talk to some of the older people that knew these stories like Henry Garcia. But people like Henry were willing to tell me about the leyendas but they also wanted to tell me other things about their family and I began to realize that this was such a vital history that nobody had explored.

My name is Maria Soto Audelo. I was born on July 17, 1899, in Tucson. Both my mother and my father were also born in Tucson after the Gadsden Purchase. My father, Don Ramón Soto, was born in March, 1860 and my mother, Maria Carrillo de Soto, was born in December, 1866....

Our heritage dates back to 1774 when the Presidio was established in the walled city of Tucson. The ancestors on my father's side were descended from Captain Antonio Comadurán who came to this country from Spain....

My grandfather, Francisco Carrillo, was the founder of of the famous La Sierrita Ranch....

Antonio- Your book has some sadness to it because the persons that you interview feel they have lost something.

Patricia- Well it’s true. And the sadder part is that nobody knows that history. I grew up in Tucson and I went to the University (of Arizona) and I was never taught that history. It was a surprise to me when I first started interviewing the people for my leyendas project to learn what had taken place.

 My name is Frank Escalante. I was born right here on this ranch fifty eight years ago. But our history goes back much further than that. My grandparents on both sides came from Ures, Sonora, Mexico. I am not sure exactly when, but I know that that it was over one hundred years ago. My grandmother used to tell stories of the Gold Rush of 1849, so that's how i know. My dad's grandfather is buries in Ures. He was a general in the Spanish army. His wife and children came here to keep from being executed during the war against Spain.

Antonio- What can you tell me about Luis Bernal who took the photographs for the book.

Patricia- Oh he was wonderful to work, we had such fun together once he accepted to participate.  I first met him at the home of a person I was interviewing and coincidently he was photographing for his own collection and although I sort of knew him because he taught at Pima (Community College) where my husband also taught I had never really gotten to know him.  Sometime later after that chance meeting I telephoned him and asked if he wanted to collaborate on my book idea. And right away he cut me off, telling me that he always worked alone. So I said thank you and went my way. Later I found out that he was already known internationally and had been an official photographer at the Los Angeles Olympics.

Antonio-That sounds like something he would do.  You know that Luis and I were next door neighbors and sometimes he could be temperamental.

Patricia- No I didn’t know that, but you know Antonio photographers and writers are very different kind of people and he had the disposition of an artist, very passionate about his work! Anyway about a week or two later he calls to tell me that he has changed his mind and he now thinks that it’s a great idea to work together. And he was so good with the people I was interviewing. He loved people and everyone loved him.

Antonio-Well the book has certainly played an important part in making that history known.

Patricia- Its made a contribution certainly, but getting people to understand and acknowledge the role of Mejcanos in developing this land has been a long and difficult uphill battle. I have been on a Pima County advisory committee for the Canoa Ranch where many Mejicano families lived and worked as vaqueros and farm hands. Recently an article was published in the local newspaper and it was all about the lake and Manning family but very little about the Mejicanos. When Manning purchased the ranch he also purchased many of the other smaller ranches in the Altar Valley and he ended up with a vast number of acres. But it was the Mejicanos that worked it.

Antonio- The County has made it a public park que no?

Patricia- Yes and Amanda Castillo and I have worked very hard on the small museum that is in a house that Raul Grijalva’s family lived in. But it’s small and really such a museum belongs in the much bigger foreman’s house, a beautiful old adobe building that I think must predate the presence of the Manning Family. And we really should have a museum in Tucson too. But it takes money and there aren’t that many rich Mejicanos that can be approached for such a project.

Antonio-What about the Arizona Historical Society, aren’t they still collecting and exhibiting.

Patricia-The Historical Society is not even functioning as a museum. It’s being used as offices for the Borderlands Theater.

Antonio-Oh I didn’t know that. I guess a new location would be needed.

Patricia. Yes but I’m 78 years old now and we need some young people to take over the challenge. But I’ve had such a good life. Everywhere I walk I feel connected. I’ve met so many good people in pursuit of my books and so many of them are gone now.

 Antonio-Amen Patricia. Thanks very much for your time.

A vintage photograph of the Canoa Ranch. Photographer unknown

Books by Patricia Preciado Martin, University of Arizona Press
Beloved Land: An Oral History of Mexican Americans in Southern Arizona, 2004
Amor Eterno: Eleven Lessons in Love, 2000 
El Milagro & Other Stories, 1996
Songs My Mother Sang to Me:An Oral History of Mexican American Women, 1992
Days of Plenty, Days of Want, 1988 
Images and Conversatons: Mexican Americans Recall a Southwestern Past, 1983

The Legend of the Bell Ringer of San Agustin, 1980, Pajarito Press

1 comment:

Mele said...

A blessing to read this. I've never had the honor of meeting Patricia, but I'm grateful for her work.